A year ago, in January 2020, The Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) and The National Archives were working together to create Novice to Know-How, a new online digital preservation training course. Back at that halfway point in the project’s development, meeting the delivery deadline of 31 March 2020 really did seem like an almost insurmountable task. Months later though, we are now excited to see that Novice to Know-How has been completed by more than 1,300 learners from around 40 countries.
One of the key reasons we did manage to deliver the project on time was the careful scoping of the learning pathway, focusing closely on pre-ingest, ingest, and bit-level preservation activities. This did, however, lead to the exclusion of an important topic that we originally intended to cover: access. As a topic, it remained somewhat amorphous in comparison to the more established practices of other issues to be covered, so removing it from the syllabus significantly simplified the process of drafting the training materials.
This choice also seems to reflect the realities of practice too. I think we would all agree that, in an ideal world, providing access to preserved digital content would be at the core of digital preservation activities. But due to the pressing demands of pre-ingest and ingest activities, and the limited resources most of us have at our disposal, access provision is often overlooked or included as an afterthought. On the other hand, it could be claimed that providing access to our preserved digital content is the ultimate test of the success of our ongoing preservation activities, so it seems time to give access provision greater attention.
The publication in early 2020 of the ‘Levels of Born-Digital Access’ has no doubt made planning for the provision of access to preserved digital content exponentially easier since we were first planning Novice to Know-How. These levels, which won a Digital Preservation Award, provide a consistent and easy-to-interpret framework for access, making the processes needed seem more coherent and attainable.
With all of this in mind, the DPC was pleased to see a ‘call to tender’ published by The National Archives in late 2020, inviting proposals for the development of online training covering the issues around providing access to preserved digital content. We were even happier still to be successful in winning the contract for the development of the training content!
With the dawn of the new year, work began at pace on the new project. The course structure and key learning objectives have been agreed, illustrations to accompany the content have been commissioned (these will be able for others to reuse on a Creative Commons licence), and a draft of the first module has been produced, with two more in progress.
As with the original Novice to Know-How learning pathway, the content will be practically focused and draw on the DPC’s considerable experience and knowledge of the digital preservation community. The main aim of the course will be to provide learners with the skills needed to achieve Level One of the Levels of Born-Digital Access. What’s more, it will also align with the ‘Basic’ maturity level for ‘Discovery and Access’ in the DPC’s Rapid Assessment Model and with the beginner’s level element of The National Archives’ Digital Preservation Access Workflow. Modules will cover topics such as accessibility, managing intellectual property rights, user needs analysis, setting up an access workstation, and more.
The course will be added to the original Novice to Know-How learning pathway for new learners and offered separately as a top-up course for those who have already completed the digital preservation training. It is provisionally scheduled to be available from April 2021 and places will once again be available free of charge, prioritising learners from the UK archives sector and DPC members.
We look forward to sharing more as work progresses!
Sharon McMeekin is Head of Workforce Development at the Digital Preservation Coalition.